It’s pretty much a given that top-down workplace bullying can diminish morale and productivity. But a study of Brazilian workers presented at the just-concluded “Work, Stress and Health” conference in Los Angeles suggests that abusive bosses may reap what they sow.
Dr. Kenneth Harris of Indiana University-Southwest (with Drs. Ranida Harris and Ana Rossi) presented a study on the effects of sustained abusive supervision on work outcomes, using a sample of Brazilian workers. One of their key findings is that many targets engaged in “upward undermining” as a response to the abuse.
In other words, bullied workers did what they could to make their bosses look bad.
Interestingly, as the bullying got worse, some targets increased work efforts on their own behalf, which Harris suggested may reflect attempts to keep their jobs despite the onslaught of mistreatment.
It makes sense, especially with bosses who have a kiss up, kick down mentality: They so underestimate the importance of subordinates that they have no idea about the little ways in which targets of their abuse can withhold support or even quietly sabotage their work and reputation.
The biennial “Work, Stress and Health” conference is co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and Society for Occupational Health Psychology (SOHP).